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Obama keeps focus on reform story 'villain'

By Ben Pershing
Two clichéd axioms have become relevant this week as President Obama focuses his fire on the health-insurance industry -- every good story needs a villain, and the best defense is a good offense.

With doubts persisting on whether Democrats will have the votes or the momentum to pass reform, the Washington Post writes: "The White House is mounting a stinging, sustained broadside against health insurance rate increases as President Obama and his aides enter what they hope will be the final stretch of a year-long political war over health-care reform. Obama and his health secretary staged a two-pronged attack Monday in a stern letter to health insurance chief executives and a speech in which the president castigated insurance companies 22 times." The Los Angeles Times calls Obama's Monday appearance in Pennsylvania "impassioned," adding: "Removing his suit coat, Obama spoke with an emotional intensity that one Democratic senator said had been lacking in his previous healthcare speeches. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), who flew up and back with the president on Air Force One, told reporters afterward: 'That's the most fiery I've seen him since the early campaign. When I was listening to him I wished that he had given that in the State of the Union' address in January." Separately, Bloomberg reports, Kathleen Sebelius "wrote to UnitedHealth Group Inc., WellPoint, Aetna Inc. and Cigna Corp. yesterday, reiterating a request that they disclose how much of premiums go toward customers' medical care, as well as administrative costs, executive salaries and profit. "

Obama may be rallying support for his plan to curb premium increases, but the New York Times says "state officials are leery of the proposal, which raises a host of questions: How would Congress define 'excessive'? How would the new federal power relate to state insurance regulation? The proposal has great political appeal. But experts see a serious potential problem: Federal officials will focus on holding down premiums while state officials focus on the solvency of insurers, the ultimate consumer protection." Politico reports that insurance company executives say that "after they spent an hour making the case that pharmaceutical manufacturers, hospitals, medical device companies and other medical service providers are driving costs upward, there was no commitment from the administration to include more stringent cost-control measures in the president's reform bill, attendees said."

The Hill examines the legislative strategy: "Senate Democratic leaders have decided to pair an overhaul of federal student lending with healthcare reform, according to a Democratic official familiar with negotiations. ... But leaders may have to reverse themselves if they receive strong pushback from Democratic colleagues who represent states where lenders employ hundreds of constituents." (Note that Harry Reid's office says "no final decision has been made" on this tactic.) Roll Call reports that "Senate Democrats and Republicans are poised to have a knock-down, drag-out fight over the arcane budget reconciliation process and equally esoteric rules as Congress races to pass a health care bill before Easter. Policy disagreements have become almost an afterthought as Republicans charge Democrats with twisting Senate rules to pass what they say is an unpopular bill while Democrats say the GOP's 'obstructionism' and hypocrisy have reached new heights." Huffington Post says "the Obama administration believes it gained a valuable boost last week in getting health care passed when a 50th Democratic senator informally announced he would back reconciliation fixes to the bill."

Gerald Seib offers two interpretations of Obama's latest moves: "Theory one: President Barack Obama is a pushover, jerked around by his own party's liberals, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Chinese. Theory two: President Barack Obama is tough in a fight, as he's showing in frontal assaults on insurance companies, teachers unions and the Taliban. This is a week in which those opposing theories are being put to the test. The epic health-care struggle heads into what promises to be, finally, the real stretch run, pushing the president deeper into what is not only the biggest fight of his career, but also a testing ground for how he acts under maximum pressure." David Brooks observes that "for the Democrats, expanding health care coverage is an emotional hot spot. Over the past year, Democrats have fought passionately for universal coverage. They have fought for it even while the country is more concerned about the economy, and in the face of serial political defeats. They have fought for it even though it has crowded out other items on their agenda and may even cost them their majority in the House."

Elsewhere on the reform front, would psychiatric care be covered under Obama's plan? The question arises after the latest outbursts from Eric Massa, the New York Democrat who has become far more newsworthy (and entertaining) as an ex-member than he ever was during his short stint in the House. Under the headline, "Dems' sick plot sunk me: 'harass' pol," the New York Post reports: "Steamed upstate Rep. Eric Massa, who quit Congress yesterday amid allegations he sexually harassed a male staffer, said he was 'set up' by Democratic leaders because he opposed President Obama's health-care bill. The freshman congressman, who said he was the "deciding vote on health care," claimed he simply made an inappropriate joke about having sex with a male aide at a party -- but corrupt Democratic leaders railroaded him to save the bill." There's no actual evidence to support the charge by Massa, who had offered at least two previous explanations for why he's leaving office. On Good Morning America Tuesday, Robert Gibbs said "I think this whole story is ridiculous. I think the latest excuse is silly and ridiculous." Still, The Washington Post notes that "Massa's allegation ... fed into that growing anxiety about Democratic tactics. His comments spread quickly online, promoted by conservative blogs such as Red State and National Review Online." Politico writes that Massa has instantly become a "conservative media hero." Newsweek says "Massa's claim does raise a valid question of whether health-care reform passage in the House is hanging on one vote. The answer? No, it's almost certainly not. Calculus at this point is a guarded secret, but some members have mused that the House tally that was 'way short' a month ago hasn't moved much in the past few weeks. If anything, support for the measure has lost ground."

On the White House beat, Peter Baker checks in with the latest and longest dispatch yet on the job performance of Rahm Emanuel: "The stupid season has arrived for Barack Obama and Rahm Emanuel, the unlikely tandem of inspirational leader and legislative mechanic that was supposed to enact the most expansive domestic program since the Great Society. After the debacle in Massachusetts that cost Democrats their supermajority in the Senate, Washington has engaged in a favorite exercise, conducting the autopsy before the body is actually dead. How had it come to this? How did the president's legislative drive drag on for so long that the surprise loss of a Senate seat could unravel it? Did Obama make a mistake by disregarding his top adviser's counsel? Or was it Emanuel who failed to execute the president's strategy? Was it both, or perhaps neither?" Baker also spots a paradox: "[I]f picking the leading practitioner of the dark arts of the capital was a Faustian bargain for Obama in the name of getting things done, why haven't things got done?" David Corn mocks the emerging narrative: "[T]he line seems to be drawn: Rahm vs. Ax. Take your pick -- and keep that backbiting gossip flowing, for the politerati relishes it. But there's someone missing from this picture: their boss. It's true that people make policy. But Obama is a brainy president capable of rendering big and tough calls on his own. He didn't need Emanuel to tell him that dumping single-payer would be a safe and conventional move. He didn't need Axelrod to advise him that pushing for sweeping reform would define his presidency. It's hard to imagine Obama being led along by either fellow."

Several outlets pick up on a new Democracy Corps-Third Way survey, which finds, "A majority of Americans say the United States is less respected in the world than two years ago and believe President Obama and other Democrats fall short of Republicans on the issue of national security," the Washington Times reports. Politico says the poll shows "Republican attacks against the Obama administration's handling of the attempted airline bombing on Christmas Day are working ... even though the president's overall ratings on national security remain high." The Fix adds, "Even more concerning for [Democrats] in advance of the 2010 midterm election is that the erosion between the May 2009 and March 2010 was largest among political independents who now favor Republicans by a 56 percent to 20 percent margin." Time looks at the ongoing talks between Emanuel and Lindsey Graham over the fate of Guantanamo Bay, giving voice to the naysayers: "Democrats worry that by negotiating with Graham, the Administration is conceding defeat at the start. 'It's a self-fulfilling prophecy,' says a senior Senate Democratic aide, 'because if you let it be known that you might cut a deal because you think you don't have the votes, then you won't have the votes.'"

If Obama goes into 2012 looking weak on national security, which candidate on the GOP side would be best-positioned to take advantage? AP reports: "For a guy who professes to have no interest in running for president, Gen. David Petraeus can come off as surprisingly eager to talk about it -- sometimes without even being asked. ... Part of his stock reply to the politics question -- even when it's not asked -- is to cite lyrics from a Lorrie Morgan country-western song about rejecting an unwanted suitor: 'What part of 'no' don't you understand?' Then he chuckles as if to suggest he's a bit embarrassed by the fuss -- fuss sometimes of his own making. Is he keeping his options open?" Elsewhere in the GOP field, the Boston Herald writes that "Mitt Romney's presumed 2012 presidential campaign is getting off to a bumpy start as his signature Bay State health-care plan has come under new fire from conservatives because it subsidizes abortions." Carl Cannon offers six reasons why Obama remains the "odds-on favorite" to keep his job after 2012, pointing out that every prospective GOP candidate has flaws, that incumbency has its advantages and that "bad news is driving the public dissatisfaction" more than unhappiness with Obama himself.

By Ben Pershing  |  March 9, 2010; 8:00 AM ET
Categories:  Health Care , The Rundown  
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Next: Gibbs calls Massa's story 'ridiculous'


I wonder how many of the people who post on here are paid for it? Or is it, as was once said, there is a sucker born every minute. The Health Insurance business is a racket, just like the mafia. Health Insurance racketeers are ruining us and the conservatives act just like the servile population of the Soviet Union and cough up their money every month. What percentage of your income do you pay for insurance now? What percentage was it at the start of the Reagan administration and what is that percentage now?

Posted by: citizen625 | March 14, 2010 12:11 PM | Report abuse

"every GOP candidate has flaws...". I suppose Obama is ready for Mount Rushmore. Gimme a break! I knew before the election that Obama was a radical but too many people fell for the MSM's BS that he was a "moderate" who would bring real change to Washington. And the mainstream media simply fell in love with him, practically foaming at the mouth. Sickening!

Posted by: denves | March 12, 2010 8:16 PM | Report abuse

We have much more to fear Obamacare than from any insurance company. In fact, we would be safer in the hands of the mafia than in the hands of Obama and his comrades!

From what we know so far, Obamacare will:
*Raise federal taxes
*Raise state taxes because of unfunded mandates to Medicaid increasing coverage to 15 million
*Raise the cost of existing premiums
*Cut Medicare
*Increase insurance costs
*Not include any reform to reduce costs or improve anything (NO tort reform)
*Force everyone to purchase insurance under threat of heavy fines and JAIL!
* Use gimmicks, creative accounting, smoke and mirrors to hide the trillions of dollars this scam will cost us
* Destroy our freedoms, our economy, our future and our country.

Posted by: AntonioSosa | March 9, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

Thank you for your comment, PanhandleWilly. Please send your comment to everyone you can. I did not know about Section 3403 that you indicate reads in part: "It shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection."

And subsection 3403 concerns the regulatory power of the Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to "reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending."!

IMAB sounds like the the chief death panel that Obama and his comrades said were not included in the bill. We can expect that death panel to be staffed by Obama's ACORN types.

In other words, a Obama's ACORN types will have total control over our lives. They will not be elected by us but appointed by Obama!

Obama will accomplish in a little more than year what has taken the Castro brothers more than 50 years to achieve -- to transform an imperfect but properous country into a GULAG of abject misery, where the only hope for most is being able to escape.

Posted by: AntonioSosa | March 9, 2010 11:46 PM | Report abuse

Obama continues to demonize and vilify the insurance industry because that's what he and his comrades planned to do more than two years ago, before he was elected president.

As per the 2007 book written by Robert Creamer, a CONVICTED FELON and Obama’s ACORN associate, the main objective of Obamacare is only to increase the power of "progressives" (Marxists) through the “democratization of wealth” (socialism/Marxim) as per the teachings of Saul Alinsky.

Demonizing and vilifying the insurance industry was part of the plan from the beginning. Creamer wrote in his 2007 book:

* “Our messaging program over the next two years should focus heavily on reducing the credibility of the health insurance industry....”
* “We need not agree in advance on the components of a plan, but we must foster a process that can ultimately yield consensus.”

As per those guidelines, Obama and his comrades planned to demonize the insurance industry and to agree to ANYTHING to get their scam approved. They don't care about the "components of the plan." All they want is CONTROL over our health care and our lives.

They want complete power as that of the Marxist thugs who are destroying Latin America. They plan to increase their power through the “democratization of wealth” (socialism/Marxism).

Posted by: AntonioSosa | March 9, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

Beginning on page 1,000 of the measure, Section 3403 reads in part: ". it shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection."
In other words, if President Barack Obama signs this measure into law, no future Senate or House will be able to change a single word of Section 3403, regardless whether future Americans or their representatives in Congress wish otherwise!!
Note that the subsection at issue here concerns the regulatory power of the Independent Medicare Advisory Board (IMAB) to "reduce the per capita rate of growth in Medicare spending."
That is precisely the kind of open-ended grant of regulatory power that effectively establishes the IMAB as the ultimate arbiter of the cost, quality and quantity of health care to be made available to the American people. And Reid wants the decisions of this group of unelected federal bureaucrats to be untouchable for all time.
No wonder the majority leader tossed aside assurances that senators and the public would have at least 72 hours to study the text of the final Senate version of Obamacare before the critical vote on cloture. And no wonder Reid was so desperate to rush his amendment through the Senate, even scheduling the key tally on it at 1 a.m., while America slept.
True to form, Reid wanted to keep his Section 3403 poison pill secret for as long as possible, just as he negotiated his bribes for the votes of Senators Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Bernie Sanders of Vermont behind closed doors.
The final Orwellian touch in this subversion of democratic procedure is found in the ruling of the Reid-controlled Senate Parliamentarian that the anti-repeal provision is not a change in Senate rules, but rather of Senate "procedures." Why is that significant?
Because for 200 years, changes in the Senate's standing rules have required approval by two-thirds of those voting, or 67 votes rather than the 60 Reid's amendment received.
Reid has flouted two centuries of standing Senate rules to pass a measure in the dead of night that no senator has read, and part of which can never be changed. If this is not tyranny, then what is?

Posted by: PanhandleWilly | March 9, 2010 6:14 PM | Report abuse

If the democrats try to force this terrible bill on us we will vote them out of office-end of story!

Posted by: joeb123 | March 9, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Just on the subject of medicare, did you know that with current cut backs of fees to doctors and hospitals it is now already hard to find doctors who will accept medicare? Do you think that by cutting an additional 500 BILLION DOLLARS from medicare it will affect seniors in a positive way? Under Obama's "reform" they have reinvented something called the "medical home" (section1302) which specifies that patients might have to settle for a nurse practitioner rather than a physician as a primary-care provider. Medical homes are likely to be like the unpopular hmo gatekeepers of years ago because cost contol will be a priority (medical decisions will be made by the government,no appeals allowed), not your doctor.
It may be, as I believe

Posted by: joeb123 | March 9, 2010 12:19 PM | Report abuse

If you would like to know what is really in this bill, not what you are told is in this bill google "What the Pelosi health-care bill really says" (wall st journal-nov7) or "What's really in Obama's health care bill-a plain english translation".

Posted by: joeb123 | March 9, 2010 12:07 PM | Report abuse

Obama is still trying to choreograph the play. Some insurance companies decide to act as if they will increase premiums by 35% so Obama can be outraged and demand the "reform" bill which in a final analysis will benefit the insurance companies more than it will benefit us (perfect timing). If I was an insurance company and I really did not want this bill to pass would I (at this particular time) announce a premium increase of 35%? Give me a break! All reform in this bill has been either eliminated, watered down, or loop-holed to death. Your premiums will go up. The insurance companies will have a captive audience. Your coverage will be less. Your care rationed. Medicare will be drastically cut. If this is reform-I pass!

Posted by: joeb123 | March 9, 2010 12:01 PM | Report abuse

O-Bozo stated a while back that all was said that needed to be said. The time for talk was over. Yet here he is again. The man and his flunkies will not listen! How many times do you have to hear the word NO.NO.NO NO to this junk you are trying to push on us. If you want ture reform do it right and don't just rush something through just to get something passed.

Posted by: rainman2 | March 9, 2010 11:23 AM | Report abuse

Obama needed a villian and wa-laaa we have the Insurance Co coming forth as the villians with there rate hike. This kind of stuff would work when the people wasnt watching. Only looking with one eye open these charades hoodwinked 75% of the people, but now, with eyes open this couldnt of fooled more then 20% of the people.
... In order to implement a universial healthcare system they will have to take over the health insurers and use there infra structure to reach the people. Once the Goverment takes over the infrastructure, then theres no turning back. What was before will be no more. This wont be as easy as change the laws with the next president. Eric Holder and the DOJ shows how much confidence can be degraded and how quickly it can be accomplished. We dont know if the DOJ works for America now or not. Stop this before it ruins us beyond repair.

Posted by: ccharles1 | March 9, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse

Theatrics as usual!! Histrionics as usual!! Staged props as usual!! Lies, propaganda, and more lies!

I notice that he keeps forgetting to mention, that his healthcare will mandate that every American carry insurance... all the while, MILLIONS of Americans are without a J O B!!

Who does he think he's fooling? This is all about him putting a notch in his belt- AND his PAYBACK to UNIONS, special interest groups, and CAMPAIGN DONORS (Wall St fat cats).

Besides, he gave out the wrong numbers and dates in his lecture in PA (they try to say he made a mistake, but this snake does not make mistakes- he intentionally MISLEADS, and calls it a mistake).

Next, he wants to give citizenship to all illegals through his immigration reform, to build up a base of immigrant thankfuls to vote Demoncrap. He, is the Master of Deceit.

RASMUSSEN- 57% says health care will HURT economy (must be the WORKING CLASS WITH HEALTH INS); and 25% says it won't. The MAjorit of Americans have spoken!! He's NOT listening.

Posted by: obamaalmighT | March 9, 2010 9:56 AM | Report abuse

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